Tag Archives: f-1 visa

Studying while on a US Work Visa

A common question we have been getting recently from folks who are planning to work in the US is whether they are also able to study at a US University as well part time. In most cases this is to pursue a Graduate Degree like an MBA.

Because of the high prestige many US Universities are held in an MBA from a school in America is seen as a great way to enhance their career both in the US, in their home countries and indeed anywhere in the globe. Sometimes if they are really lucky their US employer might accommodate in terms of hours, subsidies or outright cost to pursue their education particularly if they are working in the consulting or technology industries.

So the common dilemma is I am here working on an H-1B visa, an E-3 visa or an L-1 visa and am I now able to study as well or do I have to get a separate F-1 visa which is the usual visa for studying. This question is also applicable for spouses on the H-4, E-3D and L-2 visas where in some cases people are allowed to work and others where they are prohibited.

First of all it is possible to work part time on any of the US work visas if the job meets all the regular conditions like specialty occupation and prevailing wage. You might be asked at a US Consulate interview if they believe your wage doesn’t meet a certain level to support yourself what additional funds you have but otherwise it is certainly fine to get a work visa based on part time employment or indeed two part time employers that both meet the criteria. Again you might be question by a US consular official how you plan to make that work.

So whether you are working part time or full time on a US work visa you are allowed to apply, be accepted and pursue an education at a US University. If your US work visa expires and is not renewed then you may have to switch to the F-1 visa to remain in the country (the spousal visa for the F-1 visa is the F-2 visa).

Generally when a US university is assessing your application as a foreigner candidate, regardless if you are already residing in the US, is your fund and ability to live in the US and to pay for your education which is usually expensive. It is only in very rare and exceptional cases that foreigners have access to scholarships and unless you have built a great US credit history, your chances at a loan would be slim or at non favorable rates. Sometimes a co-sponsor is required to ensure payments are made.

Ultimately if you are able to handle the work load of gainful employment and doing a graduate degree along with the financial obligation, it could be a profitable path in the long term. It also does enhance your chances of being eligible for the EB-2 category of Permanent Residency visas (Green Cards) as well if you want to stay in the US long term if your employer is willing to sponsor you.


M-1 Visa for Students in Vocational & Technical Training in US

The M-1 visa is almost like a little brother to the main F-1 Student visa that allows a foreign student to study in the US in a technical or vocational capacity like with foreign language, hospitality, flight training, trades, etc. This is different to the F-1 visa which is mostly used for University education and even the J-1 visa which is used for Internships and High School Exchange programs.

The M-1 Visa has a lot of restrictions in that you can’t transfer to either the F-1 visa or the H-1B for workers within the US and while it has an Occupational Practical Training (OPT) program, it is far more restrictive than the one for F-1 visa students. The M-1 visa is for a maximum of one year although it can be renewed and they have a 30 day grace period for leaving following any approved OPT period.

The OPT period for M-1 Visa holders allows them to work/train for 1 month for every four months of study completed up to a maximum of 6 months with an employer. No other work can be done on or off campus while under M-1 visa status. To be eligible for the M-1 visa they need a signed I-20 form by usually the International Student Officer at the educational institution which they would present at the US Consulate during their interview. This means that during the US Consulate interview, proof of the student’s assets and ability to support themselves must be shown as part of the visa approval process.

To file for OPT within the US, the following is needed as well as the appropriate fees;

  • Cover letter explaining the student’s situation
  • Form I-765
  • $380 filing fee made out to┬áDepartment of Homeland Security
  • Copy of visa and passport photo page
  • 2 passport photos
  • Copy of original I-20 and original financial documents
  • Current bank statement
  • Form I-539 (to do change of status)
  • Signed I-20 with OPT request (copies not permitted)
  • $290 filing fee made out to┬áDepartment of Homeland Security
  • Copy of I-94 card, front and back

The M-1 visa often faces extra scrutiny as it has a known history of their students overstaying in the US, used by foreigners from countries that the US view as high risk and because of the flight training aspect is viewed as a security risk. However it is a good visa for a lot of people to experience life in the US temporarily without the onerous restrictive criteria.